Congress, Trinamool join hands for Lok Sabha elections (Second Lead)March 2nd, 2009 - 1:56 am ICT by IANS
Kolkata, March 2 (IANS) The West Bengal based Trinamool Congress and the Congress will fight the Lok Sabha election together against the state’s ruling Left Front, leaders of the two parties said here Sunday night.
“We have decided to fight the elections together,” state Congress president Pranab Mukherjee said at a joint media conference with Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee late in the night after a 70-minute meeting.
However, the two leaders said the final contours of the alliance including the number of seats to be contested by each party will be decided in the coming days after further talks.
“We had good and useful discussions. But as we have some compulsions, we will very soon tell you the final outcome of the talks,” Congress Working Committee member and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said at the brief media meet.
Asked whether it was an alliance or a seat adjustment, Mukherjee said: “That’s upto you to say.”
On how many of the state’s 42 seats each party could fight, he said: “Finally when we announce you will get the numbers.”
Echoing Mukherjee, Banerjee said the discussions were “very good”. However, she said the Trinamool will have to discuss the matter with its Leftist alliance partners like the Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI).
“We want to fight against the Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPI-M). So, nothing can be better than a Congress-Trinamool tie-up,” she said.
Banerjee said the state Congress president will talk to his party high command in Delhi before making public the details of the pact.
Congress’ all India screening committee chairman Mukul Wasnik and general secretary in charge of the state K. Keshava Rao, as also Trinamool general secretary Mukul Roy were among those present during the hurriedly convened deliberations at a South Kolkata guesthouse, that capped a day of discussions, discontent, and dissatisfaction over the alliance.
Earlier in the day, state Congress leadership deliberated on the alliance with the Trinamool that could pose a challenge to the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) led Left Front, which has suffered a constant erosion of votes for about a year.
The Left Front has been ruling the state uninterruptedly since 1977.
In the morning, discontent surfaced in the Congress over the possible alliance, with a section of leaders demanding Trinamool leaders, including Banerjee, either withdraw their disparaging comments against the state Congress president Pranab Mukherjee or apologise.
Beginning the parleys for clinching an alliance, soon after a Congress-backed Trinnamool Congress nominee wrested the Bishnupur (West) assembly seat from the CPI-M in a by-poll with a huge margin, the Congress decided in the evening not to field any candidate against Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata South.
Welcoming the Congress’ decision, Banerjee said she wanted the alliance to cover the entire state.
It was a day of fast-paced drama that saw the two sides sending mixed vibes to each other on forging the alliance.
While the state Congress pitched for an “honourable seat adjustment” with the Trinamool, Congress legislator Deepa Dasmunsi accused Banerjee and her lieutenants of making disparaging remarks against Mukherjee.
“They are humiliating our state president (Pranad Mukherjee) publicly and before the media. And at the same time they are keeping the door open for an alliance. Doesn’t this smack of double standards?” she said.
On speculation that the Congress had demanded 16 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state but the Trinamool was prepared to part with only 12, Rao indicated that apart from a good number of seats, the Congress has also set its sights on bagging winnable constituencies.
“We believe quality and quantity both are needed,” she said.
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